The good news: I am in reunion with my birth mother's family. (She herself passed away before I found her, but I'm now in touch with her sister, mother, and 3 daughters, and they've welcomed me as a long-lost family member.)
The bad news: my (adoptive) family isn't entirely supportive. In fact, it's breaking us apart.
My father actually is wholly supportive - he's never been one to feel insecure or worry much. He's happy that I've found nice people and wishes me well. He's curious, asks questions, is genuinely happy on my behalf... that part's great.
My mother, on the other hand, is... well, she's unhappy and uncomfortable, but at least she's trying. We've battled about my desire to find my birth parents for decades (I'm in my 30's and have ALWAYS known I wanted to search - she has always been adamantly against it). I knew she would be unhappy - she's always come straight out and said that she felt threatened and unloved, like I was looking to replace her as my mom whenever the topic came up. No matter how many times I told her it was about adding to my life, never about subtracting from it. I honestly think that the only reason she didn't flip out upon hearing was that I started by explaining that my birth mother was already gone. I've never understood her take on it, but I respected it, and allowed it to hold me back from searching for a long time. She has told me that she'll try to be happy for me. Best I could have hoped for, really.
And now, the downright ugly. My sister is also adopted (not biologically related to me), but has never been curious about her own biological family. After telling my parents about my search and its results, I called her to let her know as well, figuring she'd be largely uninterested in what I had to say, but also figuring that being honest and upfront was the right thing to do. I barely sketched out my discoveries before she opened fire on me with the nastiest insults she could think of. In short, she told me that I've never been a true part of our family and I should go hang out with my "real" biological family because they didn't hate me... yet.
(Honestly, yes, I have struggled over the years with my relationships with my family, but I do love them and I make sure to express it in my words and my actions. I dote on my niece and nephew, her two kids, and I encourage my small son to be close with his cousins. I am the go-to person in my family whenever someone else needs help; I previously left my career as a teacher to become a caretaker for my mother when she was struggling with a series of health problems. I set my sister up with a friend of mine because I thought they'd be a good match... and he's now her husband. I'm not perfect and my path with my family hasn't always been smooth, but what she spat at me was truly awful, purposely hurtful, and patently untrue.)
The hate and spite that poured from her for about 15 minutes totally shocked me. She asked me how I thought she'd respond, and I said, "Well, I was hoping for a little support from my 'real' sister." She said she had none for me and hung up.
It's probably obvious that we aren't speaking now.
My parents are torn up about the rift. I am too. I cannot even fathom how my news (delivered calmly and carefully in clinical language - "I discovered that I have a biological aunt and biological half-sisters, and I'm now in touch with them - they've welcomed me with open arms") could lead to the sort of venom that my sister spat at me.
I should probably add that my sister saw her best friend, a fellow adoptee, through her own search and contact/reunion with her own birth mother, and supported her 100% through the process.
I know that nobody here can give me the clarity I seek, the insight into my sister's mind and thoughts. But I'd love some feedback from people who have spoken to family about their reunions - the good and the bad. Perhaps in hearing others' experiences, I'll find a thread that leads me to understanding my sister's meltdown. And perhaps see a way to bridge the distance she's now thrown between us...
Thanks.
Dickons
You missed the first part of my comment: "Why should the sibling who was attacked be the one to make nice?"
I didn't miss it. I suggested that "the one in full protective mode because she feels her sister has intentionally wounded her mother" wouldn't be likely to do this anytime soon.
In other words, it's not a matter of "should." Sometimes, as adults, even when we're not in the wrong we're well-served to make the first move to strengthen our relationships. Maybe that's not appropriate in this case -- but then I'm pretty sure I sprinkled my post with sufficient disclaimers to that effect.
I didn't say you used those words in this thread but the tone and your words here indicate that would be how you would view it: "The #1 reason I have never considered it is that I wouldn't want to cause my mom even an ounce of pain after all she's given me. If I had an adopted sibling who made the decision you have, I'd probably go to war, too. (I hope I wouldn't be hateful about it, and you definitely don't deserve that, but I wouldn't be nice, either.)"
Um...okay...I still don't see anything in this that suggests I consider "searching" disloyal. "Searching" would hurt my mom. I don't want to hurt my mom. If I had an adopted sibling who hurt my mom, I'd be protective and angry. The end.
Note the complete lack of judgment or justification here. I'm not saying my mom would be "right" to feel hurt. I'm not saying I would be "right" to feel protective and angry. I'm suggesting that the OP's sister may have reacted as I would have, right or wrong.
Dickons
Why should the sibling who was attacked be the one to make nice? Why shouldn't the one who wasn't nice be the one expected to be the one offering apologies.
When a relationship is important, sometimes you have to be the one to make the first effort, even though the other person is at fault. I don't think there was any suggestion that she should apologize for searching, or stop searching, only that if the relationship is important to her she should try to mend the rift.
This could mean saying, "I want you to know that it wasn't my intention to upset you. I don't regret my decision to search, and I'm still going to continue to do what I think is best for me. But our relationship is very important to me, and you ARE my real sister. I'm not going to lie to you, but if it would make it easier, I can agree to not discuss it with you in the future since I know that it's upsetting for you."
Yes, sister should be the one to apologize and make the effort, but if her pride gets in the way that might never happen. Is it fair? nope. But would you rather be right or be happy?
Edydedd,
I have read all of Emerald's posts and I don't think she should be the one that has to make nice but that is Emerald's decision to make - not mine, not yours. Sometimes though there comes a point in time when it becomes someone elses turn in the family to give a bit or can you say you really have a relationship?
Kind regards,
Dickons
Dickons
I have read all of Emerald's posts and I don't think she should be the one that has to make nice but that is Emerald's decision to make - not mine, not yours.
I haven't read all of her posts, so you may have more insight into the situation and into her relationship with her sister than I do. I'm only going with this post, and it sounds like she previously had a positive relationship with her sister, one that is important in her life.
What her sister did is wrong, hurtful, and confusing. There is no excuse, and her sister SHOULD make amends. But for whatever reason (pride, defensiveness, selfishness, fear...who knows) she has not been able to do that. Emerald can't make her sister do the right thing, but if she wishes, she can offer forgiveness even when it hasn't been asked for, in the interest of mending the rift. It could open the door for her sister to offer an apology or an explanation. Or it could be met with more hostility.
I also agree that Emerald is the only one who can decide.
Dickons
Edydedd,
Sometimes though there comes a point in time when it becomes someone elses turn in the family to give a bit or can you say you really have a relationship?
"Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be."
Momus
"Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be."
sorry couldn't help myself...
Yeah emerald, treat her like a real sister!
Pin her down and pull her hair until she says Uncle errrr I mean Sorry :p
Thank you all for your responses.
It's been nearly a month since my sister spat her venom at me, and she's apparently still not prepared to apologize. I'm getting a lot of pressure from my family to be the one who extends an olive branch.
I agree with whoever above said that sometimes an adult has to step up and make the first move/first apology even when they've been wronged... I've decided to do that in this situation. But I will admit I'm really struggling with it. I decided to write a letter - to protect myself from any further backlash, I hope. Finding the right words to apologize when I'm so hurt (and frankly, so angry) has been difficult. However, I am slowly putting together a letter that apologizes for unintentionally upsetting her... I am hoping that will spark an apology from her.
Dickons, the point you brought up - that sometimes it has to be the other person's turn to do the right thing, it shouldn't always fall on my shoulders - I actually discussed that with my husband. He asked me what I "get" from maintaining a relationship with my family. The honest answer is, I don't get all that much... but I do get something. My family and I aren't super-close, but they are my family nonetheless, and I love them. My parents love me too, though there isn't much understanding between us. More importantly, however, my son, now 4 years old, gets something from the relationship. For his sake, so he can have a relationship with his cousins/aunt/uncle/grandparents/great-grandmother, I will swallow anything I must.
(So long as nobody hurts HIM. That happens and this mama bear will most definitely NOT preach sitting back and taking another dose.)
Beth, thanks for the laugh. I didn't think I could find any humor in this situation, but that got me chuckling... :)
Good luck Emerald - make sure you make a copy of the letter before you send it...just in case...
Kind regards,
Dickons
Emerald, In the past 2 days I have been thinking of you and about the advice I offered. While not in the same position, I've found myself in a situation where I think I'm right, and a person close to me clearly thinks he's right. It's been very difficult for either of us to give an inch. It's very easy for me to advise you to extend an olive branch, but when faced with that opportunity I've found it very difficult, so I commend you for doing so. I hope your sister will appreciate you concession and all that it means.
I'm not adopted, but several years I DID make a decision that created a lot of drama in my family-especially with my sister, with whom I've always been very close.
A friend of mine (who had experienced something similar when coming out to his family) gave me wonderful advice. He reminded me that I needed to give them time. He said, "you've had time to think through all of your feelings, imagine people's reactions, manage your emotions around [the decision]."they haven't. This is new for them and they haven't had the time to get where you are yet." I also had to realize that they might NOT get where I was ever, and I had to be prepared for that. It was hard. I wasn't so surprised by my parents-disappointed but not surprised, but I felt very betrayed by my sister. I know, I know...people can say your mom's had her whole life to come to terms with you searching some day, but a concept is much easier to deny than a reality. Not defending her,btw.
While I agree with Dickon's that you SHOULDN'T have to be the one to extend the olive branch, that's always been my role with my family, too. I'm way more emotionally mature than my sister, so if I want to maintain the relationship, I generally make the first move. But you CAN reach out without giving in...in my case it went something like this: "I'm sorry you're upet, but I'm NOT sorry about my decision. I hope with time that you can have peace with it. You're my sister. I love you and our relationship is important to me. Call me when you're ready to talk." Knowing that one day she'd call me for a recipe or something silly, nothing would really be said, but things would get back to normal. It's how she is, and I've accepted that's how she is and decided that's okay with me. However I get A LOT out of our relationship in other ways.
Same thing with my dad, who was the parent in my case being the ---.
They've both come around, and not only "come around" but actually apologized for how they acted and acknowledged my decision was the best for our family. Their behavior improved In a manner of months (7, to be exact.) good luck to you...while I'm not in your shoes, I do know how hard family drama can be.
I'm so sorry your family has reacted with anger (and even hate). Just a small hint gathered from friends who've been through reunions and wanted to avoid hurt feelings: Refer to your birth mother by her first name, not as "my mother" or "my birth mother." That sometimes takes some of the sting out by implying some distance that may sooth your mother and sister. Refer to your adopted mother as "my real mother." You already called your adopted sister "my real sister," which was a great move and no doubt spoke of your love for her. Her reaction could be seated in typical long term sibling rivalry. I'll remember you in my prayers. You are not doing anything wrong to seek out your birth family. Collect all the family medical records you can. Maybe they will at least understand the value of that.
Emerald, I side with you.
I am a male adoptee so my thots may be more direct than many. Regardless, your situation is not easy.
Whatever has happened in this family drama has come about as a result of many factors.
The new information you have provided has changed all the family rules and regulations in terms of the settling of those past family events.
In accordance with that event the family members made up their minds as to how they felt and wanted to act regarding that situation.
With the advent of new information they are now forced either to accept new changes in relationships, and act accordingly, or cling to the old. It's easier to hold on to the old.
In handling this with my a-family those family members that continued to hold on to ancient scenes and old information I targeted for explanations.
I waited till there was no interference, then opened the chat in terms of how they felt and why. My only request was that they speak honestly and share all their feelings. I recognized that it might take several discussions before they were comfortable in sharing.
For the most part, the majority of the opposition melted away. Those that held out, used religion or some other means to avoid reality.
Once I held out the olive branches, there may have been an uneasy peace in some areas, but they all knew that any time they could re-open the discussion.
They never re-opened the discussion and eventually they came to believe I was committed to what I wanted. It was never a matter of right or wrong.
In cases of family, there will nearly always be some form of opposition. Whats important is that you take the freedom you have to feel as you do, and stand by it. Those feelings for you are where it is.
I wish you the best.
I have to admit I have the bad habit of analyzing everything to death. (Have you ever hear the saying, "Paralysis by analysis?") My thought was is your sister threatened by the fact that you have other siblings as much as she's protective of your mom? She may also be more ambivalent about searching for her birthparents than she seems. It's even possible that she feels that she really can't look because you did and it would be too much for your mom. I may be all wet... I don't know your family; I'm only raising questions.
I know that in my own situation, it took a while for D's mom to be comfortable with the idea that D and I were "reunited." We are all clear on that fact that she is his mom. When we all lived closer D invited all of us to his family gatherings (birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) so we did spend time together. D now lives across the country and we don't all get there at the same time. Ultimately I think it was good, because his mom was reassured that she wasn't being replaced. The two of us will never be best friends... we are too different in personality but I love it that she has loved D from the day she got him and always will. It is what I wanted for him! I don't think she is hurt by the relationship D and I have, nor do her 2 daughters (one adopted, one Biological) seem to have a problem with it. I think her biggest concern at this point is for her adaughter who is Korean and thus less likely to ever find her Biological family even if she ever chooses to search.
I'm not sure that adds much to the discussion, but I hope your whole family is able to work through this challenge and become stronger for it. One challenge for you is to refrain from responding by verbally retaliating. ("I" messages are always good. I felt hurt by the things you said.. I love you, no matter what..etc.)
Emerald....I wish I had words to help you understand more.....all I can tell you is, sometimes, an adoptee feels that the birth parent (mostly the birthmother) didn't love them, want them, etc, so they were 'thrown away'. I know this, simply because of my oldest daughter's brother. Let me explain.
I am a birthmother. I was forced to give my daughter up for adoption, at birth. She was adopted into a loving family who had adopted a boy prior to my daughter's adoption. When I found my daughter, her brother was extremely upset with her for wanting to meet me or have anything to do with me. He not only felt she was going to hurt her adoptive parent's feelings, but that she was going to get seriously hurt by me...I mean, after all "I threw her away and wanted nothing to do with her" in his mind. He did not understand that I fought tooth and nail to keep my child, but I was only 16 yrs old when I had her, and was told by my own mother that if I did not give her up for adoption, I had nowhere to live..I'd be on the streets trying to care for a baby. I knew my child deserved so much better than I would be able to give her on my own, so, I bowed to my mother's determination and gave her up. We now have a fabulous relationship, even though her adoptive parents are similar to yours in how they feel...mostly her mother. Even after 20+ years, her adoptive mother still feels threatened by me and her brother refuses to have anything to do with me.....he and I have never met, but I have met her adoptive parents.
So....having told my story, all I can say is that, perhaps your sister was only trying to protect you and was extremely upset that you obviously did not need or want her protection, so to protect herself, she spewed those hateful comments at you. It does not excuse her behavior, and unlike some above, I do not feel you should apologize, but neither do I feel your sister should. You both were acting in a way of protection toward each other and THAT should be where the focus is. You obviously love each other enough to get this angry at each other (the opposite of love is not hate/anger, it's no feeling at all!!!) for not caving in to each other's pressure.
Perhaps, if you can't sit down with your sister, maybe send her a letter, telling her that you're sorry she does not understand, but that you miss her terribly and don't want this rift between you, but that you can't/won't stop seeing your biological family just to assuage her protectiveness when there is nothing to protect you from. If your relationship is good with the Biological family, then it's your right to continue that relationship and grow it, but it's also a responsibility, to a degree, to also try to continue to grow your relationship with your sister, until such time that it becomes totally and completely impossible to so do, should that time ever come.
Family rifts are the hardest to deal with, and sometimes the hardest to get over.....toss in long lost family, and it becomes even more difficult, but you sound like a strong person, and I hope you can stand your ground on both sides.
To me, the focus needs to be on WHY your sister reacted like she did, then try to go from there. Not on the fact that she reacted at all. Try to get her to open up to you. If you have to call her and tell her that you'll call every 5 minutes until she talks to you....then do, but ask her WHY she reacted like that, then see if you can help dispel some of her fears. She may use the "you hurt Mom" as the intial response....but be sure that's the true feeling behind her tantrum.
Good luck and my sincere hope is that your family is able to heal and move forward in a positive way, giving everyone space to grow and enjoy each other.
Love and light.....B
From what I understand, he once told another family member that if I ever sought out my biological roots he would disown me.
I disown him. The best thing I can say about him is that he never managed to breed and the day he croaked was the best day of my life.
I later found my b-mom and we had a wonderful relationship for about 14 years until she died.